SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Swarm (2-1) hosts the Washington Stealth (2-2) this Saturday, Jan. 29 on Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. CST.
The Swarm picked up its first victory of the season two weeks ago against Washington on the road, winning 16-8. F Ryan Benesch recorded a franchise-high seven goals and G Nick Patterson added 50 saves on 58 shots.
Both Minnesota and Washington are coming off wins last weekend. The Swarm knocked off Edmonton 9-8 behind a game-winning goal from F Aaron Wilson (2g, 1a) in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, while the Stealth beat Calgary 19-14 on the road.
“It was great to finally win a close one at home,” coach Mike Lines said. “We had been on the losing end in those types of games for almost a year and a half. It’s almost better to win that way than by six or seven goals. It’s a confidence booster.”
Washington enters Saturday’s contest with the league’s second ranked offense, averaging 12.25 goals a game. Forwards Lewis Ratcliff (10g, 14a) and Rhys Duch (11g, 12a) continue to lead the Stealth, ranking sixth and seventh, respectively in the NLL in scoring.
“I expect them (Washington) to be hungry,” Lines said. “We embarrassed them in their own barn two weeks ago. It’s not something they are going to be thrilled about. They came back and put up 19 goals last week so we will expect them to be more physical on defense.”
Minnesota’s defense continues to improve in 2011 and leads the league in several notable categories. The Swarm ranks first in goals allowed (27) and goals allowed per game (9.0). That is due in large part to the play of G Nick Patterson, who leads all goalies in GAA (8.85) and SV% (.821).
When asked what Patterson has been doing differently this year compared to past seasons, Lines says it’s simple.
“He’s confident,” he said. “He’s back to playing and enjoying himself. He’s having fun and focusing. Nick has made three of four saves in each game that he has no business making. They are highlight reel saves.”
Defenseman Joe Cinsoky also spoke highly of Patterson’s play this season.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “When you have a guy stopping the percentage of shots that he does, it helps the defense out a great amount. Knowing that Patty is behind us is huge. I can’t speak enough about how valuable he is to our team and defense.”
On the other side of the ball, Minnesota’s No. 1 ranked power-play unit has paid dividends. The Swarm converted on 3 of 4 chances last weekend and is finishing on 60.0% of its chances in 2011.
Lines said the team’s offense did get out to a slow start against Edmonton, and that is something it will look to avoid this week.
“I think our offense was stale for three quarters,” Lines said. “They picked it up in the fourth quarter and moved the ball around a lot better. If we can play like we did in the fourth quarter against Edmonton this week, we will be fine.”
For the first time ever, fans will be able to see both the Swarm and the Minnesota RollerGirls for one ticket price of $20 on Saturday night. The RollerGirls will take the floor at Xcel Energy Center after the Swarm’s against the Stealth. The Swarm and the RollerGirls will attempt to break the national attendance record for a roller derby event, which currently stands at just over 6,000 fans and is held by the Seattle Rat City RollerGirls.